October 1, 2017

Suiting Basics: The Difference Between Bespoke, M2M, Custom and RTW

At some point, you may stop and ask yourself what it all really means - shirt collar sizes, jacket canvassing, lapel widths, thread counts, trouser-waist-rise options and button stance, just to name a few. We want to arm you with enough knowledge to make good decisions. This is the first in a series of articles that will explain an in-depth guide to buying custom. So you keep eyes peeled, your head cool and open your mind to learning more about #SuitingBasics.

A man has never had so many options in suiting, thanks to the revival of menswear in recent years. So how does one differentiate between bespoke, custom, made-to-measure and ready-to-wear suiting? We’re happy to explain the differences, which are neither incidental nor arbitrary.

Ready-to-Wear (RTW) is bought off the rack, made through mass production. RTW was pioneered in the 1950s, and now the vast majority of the world’s suits are made this way. The suit is pre-made to a generic size and specification. You can wear a RTW immediately, without need for multiple fittings over several weeks. However, few men are likely to possess the dimensions to perfectly fit a RTW suit. While it may fit in some areas - in others it may be too long, short, tight or loose. They also allow for little personal expression, but are the most affordable suiting option. It’s best to think of a RTW suit as temporary.

Made-to-Measure (MTM) provides a more altered fit with a greater scope for personal expression. The suit is created from a pre-existing size close to your measurements and then tailored to your body by a salesman. These measurements and choices are then sent to a factory for production. Here they’ll start with a base pattern, and then tweak it to accommodate your body type. MTM only deals with simple, two-dimensional measurements meaning it cannot account for things like which shoulder is lower than the other.

Custom garments are made specifically for you. A clothier takes upwards of 30 measurements to create a pattern that will be used to make your suit. This pattern is then kept on file with the tailor for future convenience. The clothier will send the tailor observational notes about each client’s body, posture and preferences in fit. This allows for a one-of-a-kind fit and total control over personalization. These garments typically take 4-6 weeks to be completed. In comparison to bespoke, they are made in less time and are more affordable. Custom reigns superior to MTM because custom clothiers do not tie themselves to a couple mills, but leave their options open so that their clients can obtain exactly what they want. Most people choose custom when they want a mixture of the best fit and the best quality. Custom has the level of craftsmanship of bespoke, just without the wait time.

Bespoke involves creating a suit from the ground up. The term originated in England and is heavily tied to Savile Row, and meant that the fabric in the tailor shop was “spoken for.” It's handmade by multiple tailors, who take into account aspects of body shape and posture that only a trained eye could notice. Paper patterns are then drawn and cut, the cloth you’ve chosen is cut using the patterns and over the course of several fittings the suit is refined. It’s a lengthy and (costly) process that could require as many as 10 fittings throughout the construction of the garment. The final product typically takes over 6 months.

Custom is an interesting blend between MTM and bespoke, and what we practice here at Samuel Baron Clothiers. We start with over 40 body measurements, which are then used to create a paper pattern that will be the basis for all of your garments. Under the direction of our Master Clothiers we partner with you to create and mold a garment specific to your silhouette. We also guide you through choosing the highest quality fabrics and small stylistic details unique to your personal preferences. We worry about things that you haven’t even thought about, like what gorge placement is best for your body. We are here to not only create garments that stand the test of time, but to build lifelong relationships with our clients.

To create your own custom suit, book an appointment with us by calling (412)-441-1144.

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